Alfred Nicol: People Out There In The World


On House Hunter’s International,
the television program
where people look for a place to live
in another country, with cameras

following them around, we saw
a young couple hoping to find an apartment
in Bolivia, where they’d already
found employment online.

They’d never lived together before.
They had personalities
that would allow for each other’s
existence, I thought to myself.

She had a boyish figure. That
makes no difference, but
when you watch TV
you notice things.

They went to see a soothsayer,
who dropped leaves on a table.
It mattered if the leaves landed
right-side up or upside down.

The young man repeated what
the fortune-teller told him, as
though translating for his girlfriend,
but she understood as well as he did;

the Bolivian spoke in English. “He says
we’re going to meet with obstacles,”
he told her, and she nodded, as that is
exactly what she’d heard the man say.

Neither of them seemed concerned.
It’s reality TV. Nothing really happens.
It didn’t seem a stretch to believe
they might meet with obstacles, now

or later, as they tried to get settled
in a foreign country, and learned to
live together in one of the tiny apartments
available at a price they could afford.

She was from Bulgaria, originally;
he was from Canada, not a place
where House Hunters would be
likely to film an episode.

The Bulgarian connection, however,
did figure into the program. The furnishings
in one of the places they considered
included an orange couch, and

other orange things which I forget,
which made the boyish woman remember
a song she sang as a girl. She sang it,
The Bulgarian Orange Song. Did you know

the Bulgarian word for orange is
orange? So that would not be an obstacle…
And yet, a weird foreboding never left me,
despite the distraction of the bright couch.

I feared what these young people might be
up against. Moths fluttering against
the glass pane of a window, attracted to
the orange light inside, flecks of their wings

falling to the pavement. The woman spoke
wistfully of a time when her friend might mature
and choose to live in one place instead of
flitting here and there, bringing her along.